Canada welcomed the Reactive Monitoring Mission (RMM) and worked closely with the WHC, the IUCN, and Indigenous partners to ensure the mission experts were able to gather the information they required to assess the state of conservation of the site. The RMM occurred between September 26 and October 4, 2016, during which representatives of the WHC and the IUCN met with federal, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous communities, industry, academics, and non-governmental organizations. The RMM Report was submitted to the WHC in March 2017, and included 17 recommendations to protect the site’s OUV.
The World Heritage Committee adopted a decision at the July 2017 Committee meeting requesting that Canada submit an Action Plan to address conservation challenges facing the site to the World Heritage Centre. Canada submitted its final Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site to the World Heritage Centre on February 1, 2019. The final decision on the Action Plan will be made during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee being held in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10, 2019.
Working collectively with Indigenous partners, Provincial and Territorial governments, and stakeholders, the Government of Canada will continue to take action to respond to the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations. We are confident that through this collaboration we can create a path forward and secure the future of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site, so that it remains a treasured place with Outstanding Universal Value for generations to come.
Actions taken to date and currently underway to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site include the following:
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
In the spring of 2018, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site was completed in fulfillment of the 2015 World Heritage Committee request to undertake such an assessment. The SEA identifies potential cumulative impacts to the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
· In 2017, a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Coordinating Committee was established to work across jurisdictions to develop the Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
· The Government of Canada has led a collaborative effort with the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories, in partnership with Indigenous communities and stakeholders, to develop the Action Plan. The Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site outlines a series of actions, to be undertaken over the coming years, to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park is maintained for present and future generations.
· The Action Plan includes over 140 actions across 7 thematic areas, which respond to the recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring Mission report. This includes actions to strengthen relationships with Indigenous partners, actions to ensure improved understanding and water management of the Peace Athabasca Delta, actions to increase protection of ecosystems within and beyond Wood Buffalo National Park (including the establishment of new conservation areas adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park), actions to support improved integration of science and monitoring in the Peace Athabasca Delta, and actions to support the recovery of iconic species, such as Whooping Crane and Wood Bison.
· In keeping with the spirit of reconciliation and co-operation, the 11 Indigenous communities associated with Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site were actively engaged in the development of the Action Plan to ensure that it was informed by and reflects Indigenous perspectives, values and knowledge. Parks Canada has provided over $1 million in funding to support engagement from Indigenous partners in the development of the Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
· Environment and Climate Change Canada convened a process with multiple jurisdictions and Indigenous partners to develop actions to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site under the theme of environmental flows and hydrology. Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada worked with federal, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous partners to develop the relevant content for this theme of the Action Plan using science-based and Indigenous knowledge. The next step will be to establish a governance mechanism that will oversee the implementation of actions under the environmental flows and hydrology theme.
· The Government of Canada’s Budget 2018 provided historic investments to protect Canada’s nature, parks, and wild spaces. Included in these investments in Canada’s natural legacy is an investment of $27.5 million in funding over five years to support the development and early implementation of an Action Plan for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
· Engagement with Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and Federal/Provincial/Territorial partners on the draft Action Plan occurred in fall 2018. Public consultations took place from November 19 to December 10, 2018. Following the consultation period, the final Action Plan was completed and submitted to the World Heritage Centre on February 1, 2019.
· In August 2017, Canada, together with the Alberta Energy Regulator, announced an amendment to the agreement of the Joint Review Panel established to review the proposed Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project. The amendment mandated the independent Joint Review Panel to specifically consider and report on the potential environmental and cumulative effects of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site, including the Peace Athabasca Delta (PAD). The amendment was developed in consultation with Indigenous communities.
· The Joint Review Panel established to review the proposed Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project and conduct the assessment of the potential environmental effects of the project started its public hearing on September 25, 2018. The Joint Review Panel completed the evidentiary portion of the hearing on October 24, 2018, and held final arguments on December 11 and 12, 2018, in Calgary. The Joint Review Panel will submit its report to the Minister and to the province of Alberta in late July 2019.
· In December of 2017, Canada’s Minister of Environment Climate Change and Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that renews Canada and Alberta’s commitment to monitoring of potential environmental impacts of oil sands development, including those within the Peace-Athabasca Delta region of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
· Under this agreement, Environment and Climate Change Canada is investing up to $2 million annually to assist local Indigenous communities – including some of those whose traditional territory includes Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site – to develop and implement community-based environmental monitoring projects.
· Parks Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of Alberta and Indigenous communities, among others, are all conducting on-going science and monitoring work in the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
· In February 2018, the Government of Canada proposed changes to environmental and regulatory processes, including project proposals that may have an impact on national parks. In part, these changes will ensure decisions are informed by consultation with, and input from, Indigenous peoples and the public.
· In 2018, the Government of Alberta announced the establishment of new Wildland Provincial Parks adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, contributing to the conservation of more than 6.7 million hectares of boreal forest. These protected areas provide significant buffers and landscape connectivity to Wood Buffalo National Park, contributing to the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world.
· Further, in March 2019, the Government of Alberta announced the establishment of Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park, which protects approximately 160,000 hectares of additional land immediately south of Wood Buffalo National Park. This new protected area will help protect the Peace-Athabasca watershed and increase ecological integrity and habitat for species such as wood bison, one component of the site’s OUV. Kitaskino Nuwenëné means “our land” in both Cree and Dene languages.